Sometimes it’s smarter NOT to ride on the back of a motorcycle.
I know this sounds strange coming from me.
I’ve done over a quarter of a million kilometers on the back of the hubby’s bike.
But riding pillion is not always a good idea.
It’s important to know when not to ride on the back of a motorcycle. There are several key questions you need to ask. For example: Are you wearing the right clothes? Is the rider experienced (and sober)? Has he ridden with passengers? The answers to these important questions will help you make the right decision.
An invitation to ride on the back of a motorcycle is usually a good thing, right?
After all, motorbikes are the most fun machines in the world!
But getting onto a bike is not something you do lightly.
Things can go very wrong very quickly.
That’s why you have to get on the right bike – with the right rider.
So how do you know when it’s OK to ride with someone?
You simply gage the risk before you climb aboard.
When you know the danger signs, you can make safer decisions.
Let me show you what I mean…
10 Questions to Ask BEFORE You Ride on the Back of a Motorcycle
1. How well do you know the rider?
Let’s say you’re out with friends and you meet some cool new people.
A couple of them arrived on motorcycles.
One offers you a ride home, or onto the next venue on his bike.
He’s funny. He’s nice.
He doesn’t seem to be a serial killer.
He’s wearing proper bike gear, and even has a spare helmet.
Everything seems fine.
And it might be.
He might a fantastic person.
Down the track, you might marry him and have 10 gorgeous kids together.
But in the meantime, there’s a crucial question hanging in the air.
And it’s a question you can’t possibly know the answer to…
What kind of rider is he?
Will he ride carefully through traffic with you on the back of the bike?
Or will he burn up the road, and throw the bike into corners with you clinging on like a terrified koala?
You don’t know.
And you can’t know until you get on the bike with him.
By then it’s too late.
Get to know him a little bit more before you ride with him.
This leads us to the next question…
2. How much experience does the rider have?
Did he buy his first motorcycle last week?
Or has he been riding for years (and ideally, decades)?
It’s pretty common for guys around their forties and up to come back to motorcycles after years away from riding.
They’ve been busy raising children, or divorcing wives who hate bikes.
Now the kids are older and the wives have left, they’re back in the game.
Well, sure. Life Stuff happens.
But that means their riding skills might be a little rusty.
Motorcycles have changed a lot in the last decade or two.
They’re much more powerful.
They’re faster and more responsive.
They have hundreds more bells and whistles.
Riding them demands sharp, current skills.
So if you’re thinking about going riding with a guy who got divorced a couple months ago and has just bought a massive Harley (his first bike in 15 years) maybe give it a bit longer to let him find his feet again.
The same applies to the guy who’s still in his first year of riding.
It takes a good while to develop the skills and confidence to handle a powerful machine – especially with someone on the back.
3. Has the rider taken passengers on his bike?
Riding alone, and riding with a passenger are quite different things.
The passenger can affect how the bike handles and feels (especially if you happen to wriggle around in the middle of a corner).
So it’s important to know if the rider knows how to ride with a passenger.
Has he actually ridden with passengers?
How many? Recently?
(And did they need therapy?)
A rider who’s experienced with passengers will inspire confidence.
He’ll be able to talk you through some of the basics, like:
- How to mount and dismount
- How to hold on
- How not to burn your leg on the pipes, and
- What to do in corners.
You don’t want to be the test subject for someone who’s in the process of learning how to ride with a passenger!
Find a rider with real, recent passenger experience.
4. Is the rider drunk (or high)?
Pretend for a moment you’re on a motorcycle date.
You’re about to leave the restaurant, and the guy says:
Hang on, I’ll just finish these 3 after-dinner shots, and then we’ll head out…
a) Order another bottle of wine and settle in
b) Order an Uber instead, and save both your lives?
Yep, that’s not exactly a brain twister.
OBVIOUSLY, drinking and riding is an insane combination.
But it still happens.
I’m amazed at how it’s still something of a tradition in some motorcycle circles.
We’ve been on plenty of long group rides where the rest points are a series of bars.
And no-one’s drinking lemonade, believe me.
Sure enough, the riding pace gets faster and faster as the day goes on.
Naturally the hubby and I drop out of the group pretty early on.
We’d prefer to still be alive at the end of the ride.
We’re boring like that.
If a rider is drunk or high (even a little), his decision-making abilities are impaired.
His response times are slower, and his co-ordination is clumsier.
And on top of all that, he also feels invincible.
So he may go faster, and take more risks.
But, hey, he CLAIMS he’s fine to ride…
Yep, get out your phone and order some alternative wheels.
5. Do you have enough riding gear?
If you don’t ride on the back of a motorcycle very often, you won’t have a full set of motorcycle safety gear hanging in your wardrobe, just waiting for an outing.
But if you’re planning on going riding regularly, you’ll definitely need some.
Riding a motorcycle without proper gear is like cutting your foot, and jumping into the shark tank at SeaWorld.
You’re begging for trouble.
And when it arrives, it will hurt.
It’s much smarter to protect yourself from possible injury.
The best way to do that is to be strategic about what you wear on the bike.
Until you invest in motorcycle safety gear, you can make sure you’re covered by wearing all of these items:
- A regulation motorcycle helmet
- A zipped-up jacket – preferably leather, but sturdy fabric at the very least
- Jeans or thick pants
- Ankle covering boots, and
- Leather gloves.
That way, if you do run into trouble, this combination offers you some protection.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a much better option than a short skirt and sandals.
6. Does the rider talk about his Need for Speed?
Some guys ride motorcycles purely for the adrenalin rush.
Roaring through the world at the speed of light is thrilling!
Cool, I get it.
Just don’t do it with me on the back of your bike.
Luckily, compulsive speed freaks are pretty easy to spot.
They talk a lot about the top speeds they’ve managed to wrestle out of their bikes.
They complain bitterly about the unfair and outrageous cost of their latest speeding tickets.
And they lose their driver’s licenses regular as clockwork.
You might want to think twice about getting on the back of a motorcycle with a guy who thinks speed limits are for wimps.
7. Are you comfortable with the riding conditions?
If you’re not an experienced motorcycle passenger, the riding conditions can directly impact how safe you feel.
Rush hour traffic, for example, can be a harrowing experience.
Lane splitting through long lines of angry car drivers can be unsettling when you’re not used to it.
And riding through heavy rain or a thunder storm is also an experience best kept for later, when you have a lot of experience, and the right safety gear.
Riding on the back of a motorcycle is a lot more fun when it’s not raining, hailing, snowing or 1,000 degrees in the shade.
So try and pick a mild, sunny day.
And suggest to the rider that you take quieter roads where the traffic will be light.
Having said that, life is never perfect.
Sometimes the opportunity comes up for a motorcycle ride when conditions are not ideal.
But maybe they’re good enough – and better than missing out on a ride entirely.
So it’s up to you to make the call.
Take a look at the weather forecast.
Think about the time of day, and the planned route.
Riding can still be a lot of fun in imperfect conditions.
Just know what you’re signing up for before you climb aboard.
8. Are you feeling OK?
If you’re not feeling too great, you might want to postpone riding until you’re back to full health.
A motorcycle passenger has to be alert and engaged during a ride.
If you’re sick, or seriously exhausted, you’ll not only have an awful time on the ride.
You’ll also potentially cause problems for the rider.
If you fall asleep, for example, that’s a problem if you go into a corner or hit a bump on the road.
You can’t react if you’re unconscious.
And if you’re actually feeling sick, the ride will be torture, not fun.
You’ll be hating every second, just waiting for it to be over.
Riding on the back of a motorcycle should be a joy, not something you have to grit your teeth through, and endure.
9. How tiny is the passenger seat?
Some motorcycle seats are clearly designed for children sit on.
Certainly not grown women.
If your pillion seat’s tiny and apparently made from a block of wood, you might want to have a chat with the rider.
Is an upgrade possible?
A motorcycle passenger seat should be comfortable.
Too often, they’re just not.
So if your seat is too hard, too small, too thin and makes you feel like you’ll need physio after the ride, speak up.
Pillion seats can be replaced.
And once you’re comfortable, you can focus on enjoying the ride rather than trying to balance on a tiny little seat that MIGHT fit a 5 year old.
10. Are you ready for a new experience?
OK, so far we’ve talked about some comfort and safety aspects you need to know about.
But there’s one more thing to consider here: how you actually feel about motorcycles.
Are you excited about riding on the back of a motorcycle?
Then things are pretty simple for you.
But what if you’re only doing this because your man just keeps on asking you to?
Are you secretly terrified, and don’t want to admit it?
There are two different kinds of motorcycle fear:
Category 1. You are really, truly terrified.
Nothing could make you feel better about this.
Category 2. You’re nervous, and a little intimidated.
But you still want to give it a try.
If you’re Category 1, know that being a motorcycle passenger is not compulsory.
If it makes you that uncomfortable, don’t do it.
But if you’re Category 2, you just need some strategies for increasing your confidence.
It really helps if:
- The rider knows you’re nervous, and takes it slow and steady
- You have proper safety gear, so you’re well protected
- You know how to get on and off the bike
- You know how to brace for starts and stops, and
- You know what to do in corners.
The rider can help you with all of this.
Talk to him about the things that are worrying you.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to practice getting on and off the bike in the privacy of your driveway, either. Once you’ve mastered that, you can spring on and off in public like a professional gymnast.
And remember that your confidence will increase with experience.
It’s normal to be nervous the first time you do anything.
Only you know the difference between nerves you want to conquer – and a deep-seated fear that you don’t want to face. By being honest about your real fear levels, you’ll know whether you want to give motorcycles a whirl.
Now You Know When Not to Ride on the Back of a Motorcycle
Motorcycles are crazy fun!
And it’s hard to turn down the chance to go riding.
But sometimes it’s smarter to say no.
So weigh up the situation, assess the risks, and make a smart decision.
Now you know just how to do it.
Here’s another great way to be safer on a motorcycle – stay awake!
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